Difficult times are in store for Catholics. Besides the already questionable canonisation of JP II, the even more questionable “miracle” attributed to Paul VI, and still called “miracle”, opens even more disquieting questions about what is happening with the canonisations, and how a Catholic is to react to such news.
To me, the question is very simple: either canonisations are infallible, or they aren't.
It is my understanding that canonisations are infallible. That is, that God will not allow canonisations of people who are not in Paradise. If you read attentively the relevant entry in the Catholic encyclopedia, you will see that this opinion is so dominant as to allow us to consider it what the Church has generally believed: not because it is a self-evident truth, but because it appears a rather logical consequence of the cult of the Saints, and it is not given to see – to me at least – how the first can be crushed without very gravely damaging the second. I do not need to tell you that with a decree of canonisation the Pope orders (not allows) to believe that such and such is in heaven.
This is, mind, not dependent on the actual ways or procedures which led to the proclamation of someone as a saint. The highly structured process we know today – and which remained structurally unchanged until JPII raped it with the abolition of the advocatus diaboli – was not followed until many centuries after the first martyrs; and whilst we know in the earlier times martyrs had a kind of monopoly on the canonisations, I can't imagine we can get certainty of rigorous procedures for several centuries of Church history. Again, the Catholic encyclopedia has interesting words about the confessors and the gradual evolution of the process.
What shall we do, then: divide the saints into those with the “quality seal” of a rigorous procedure, and the others? Does everything come down to picking a “safe bet?” Is a martyr a “safer bet” than a confessor? As far as I know, many are the Saints who were acclaimed such by the Christians in Rome. Were they all martyrs? Are we so sure? And what about those believed saints in force of strong conviction of the Catholic world?
Does not the entire concept of the culto dei Santi repose on the concept of infallibility? Who of you, on buying a book about the Saints, questions the legitimacy of some of them? “Hhhmmmm… Saint such and such. Canonised in 931. A period of great Church corruption. Hhhmmm… No, I don't really trust this one”.
I am at a loss to understand how it can work this way. If the Church tells me that Saint Quisque is in Heaven, and She orders me to believe it, either she says it infallibly or the statement makes no sense, because there is no way to verify the entrance of the saint in Heaven with the measure of Church doctrine. When Francis tells me this or that rubbish about, say, the Blessed Virgin, I can check whether it is conform to tradition or not. When he tells me that Paul VI is in heaven, I must believe that God does not allow him to cheat me on that.
And in fact, it seems to me that to be a “doubter” implies the belief in a rather timid God, who would allow a Pope to cheat us in such a way that we cannot see that he is cheating, whilst allowing him to order us that we believe him without proof, and merely on faith.
Or you can say it in this way: no one can, without committing a mortal sin, allow himself an authoritative statement that, say, Paul VI is not in heaven. If, therefore, we cannot demonstrate that he is not, we must believe that God did not deceive us when He allowed the Church to believe for 2,000 years that a Pope can tell us that someone is.
I have more confidence in God's work than to doubt a canonisation, unsavoury or seemingly absurd as it may seem. I think that God stays behind the deal He has given us, and will crush Francis like a mosquito, or otherwise impede the canonisations, if JP II and John XXIII are not in heaven on the day appointed. This is what our forefathers have always believed, and this is what I will continue to believe, in the confidence that what was held sacred by all generations before me applies to this wretched generation, too.
“Ah, but this time is different!”, some will say.
Look: a lot of times were “different” already. Nihil sub sole novi. We have gone, in the history of the Church, through astonishingly corrupt times, and with Popes to match; but still, our forefathers trusted God not to allow a Pope to cheat them in such matters; not ever, irrespective of the deficiencies of the Pope, the canonisation process, or the mistakes made in life by the canonised person. Nor do we divide the Popes in Popes of First, Second and Third Class concerning canonisations.
Will I, then, erect myself as judge of another's acceptance in Heaven, when God does not give me a way to make a judgment, nay, he explicitly forbids me to make it? Will I die with such a sin of presumption on my conscience when I know, absolutely know, that this is just the thing concerning which it is part of the Divine Plan that I should not be allowed to judge for myself?
How can I know what tests Paul VI had to pass? How do I know with what virulence he was attacked? How do I know he did not get a valid plenary indulgence, dying – after all his mistakes – perfectly contrite for them, absolved of everything, and with nothing more to pay? How can I know that, if he did go to purgatory, he is still there?
“But Mundabor! He had no heroic virtue! He was an appeaser to his last breath!” It might well be so; it was very probably so; but whilst heroic virtue is a frequent appearance by canonised saints, it is not a requirement. The canonisation decree does not require you to believe in one's heroic virtue, merely that he is in heaven.
I am, as you might or might not have noticed, unhesitatingly critical of the Bishop of Rome when I think he is way out of line. I do it whenever I can see – through the comparison of his own behaviour and statement with objectively recognisable Church doctrine, basic decency, or common sense – that he is behaving in strident contrast to what is required of him. I do so persuaded that as God gives us a clearly recognisable set of rules, He also puts on us the duty to verify their observance, and to make us heard if this is not the case. If God has allowed you to see, you have no right to make yourself blind.
If, however, it is not given to me to verify that what the Pope states is in accordance with God's rules, but the rules of the Church tell me I have to believe it anyway and God will take care the Pope does not mess around, then I will do the only thing I am able to do, and the only thing that is left to do: submit, believe, and obey.
How can God allow that there be officially canonised bogus Saints? Would this not be an offence to all the true ones, a mockery of their sainthood, and a bomb put under the devotion of the Church Militant? How can this be squared with what your grand-grandmother has always believed, and believed because this is what the Church has constantly taught? What kind of Traditionalism is that?
Now, I am absolutely sure in the next weeks and months all kind of theories will emerge. Minority positions held once upon a time by the one or the other. Strange theories about the Church not really saying what everyone has always believed the Church was saying. Outlandish snippets of Saints of the past taken out of context.
I promise you, I will read whatever comes from worthy sources – like the SSPX, of course – with great attention; but frankly, the obstacle as we write the 5 March 2014 seems insurmountable to me, because against it is the huge wall of an infallibility I cannot but see as generally believed these last 2,000 years.
When it is not given to understand, then, I think, is the moment to obey. I cannot understand everything, but – sinner as I am – I will strive to obey in everything I can. Christ will not ask me, on that fateful day, if I was the smartest of the bunch, or had not come to the conclusion that the Church He found was wrong in what I can't prove wrong. I hope He will, at least in this matter, be satisfied enough that having been given no instruments to understand which is which, I have trusted what He said I have to believe in the matter.
Terrible times are awaiting us. We have apparently arrived to the mockery of the miracle – just to be logical: the “cure” of a feared malformation, or disease, is no cure at all -. But even a miracle is no necessary component of God calling one to heaven; and it is merely a procedural – and again: not obligatory – step of the current or even the old canonisation process. Let the proclamations of “miracles” become as stupid as they want. God will not be fooled by them.
I will therefore believe – until sensible evidence to the contrary – in the infallibility of canonisations.
If Francis is playing fast and loose with God even on this, I trust God will rid us of the canonisation, and possibly of the Pope himself; because whilst God will allow him to say he slaps people on the wrist at the most – which every Christian can see is rubbish – God will not allow him to make a mockery of Sainthood.
Put your trust in the Lord. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.